Dorothy Day Cottages Demolished

The Spanish Camp Preservation Coalition Nominates The Spanish Camp Historic District for Landmarks Designation

A Remarkable Press Conference at Spanish Camp

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Calendars Dorothy Day Historic Site

On February 9th, 2001, the cottage where Dorothy Day lived at Spanish Camp on Staten Island was demolished.

Spanish Camp Cottages

The cottage was among the last remains of Spanish Camp. Dorothy Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement lived in one of the cottages for many years until she died in 1980.

Dorothy Day is under consideration for sainthood by the Vatican because of her work for the poor.

Remains of Day Cottage
Christobel Gough visits the site
Christobel Gough from the Society for the Architecture
of the City of New York visits the site of the demolition.

A number of preservatiopn groups including Friends of Dorothy Day Cottages, The Preservation League of Staten Island, Society for the Architecture of the City of New York and Historic Districts Council had tried originally to save Spanish Camp and later at least the three cottages that had once been owned by the Catholic Worker organization.

The not-for-proft, Spanish Naturopath Society had owned Spanish Camp's 17 acres on Raritan Bay in southeast Annadale on Staten Island. It had sold the site to a developer John DiScala in 1999. John DiScala of Volpe-DeSimone, Inc., plans to build mini-mansions on lots on the site and now calls it "Central Park East Estates."

Up until the time of the demolition, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was in talks with John DiScala regarding landmarking the cottages and having Friends of Dorothy Day Cottages maintain them.

Spanish American immigrants founded Spanish Camp in 1929 as a seaside summer retreat from various New York City barrios. Camp life included tan canvas tents on raised wooden platforms with open-air kitchens under canopies in the back; common showers, latrines, and water pumps; plentiful clamming and fishing, seasonal performances by celebrated Flamenco dancers and musicians in the Salon -- a lantern-strung hall with barn-like doors in the center of the Camp. In the late 1930's and early 1940's the tents became small summer bungalows; later, many were winterized. In 1972, Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day bought a bungalow near the beach. She spent the last eight summers of her life in Spanish Camp, enchanted by the sound of breaking waves through her kitchen window, and the simple, cooperative living of her neighbors.

 
Dorothy Day 

A letter sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on August 12, 1997, in support of Landmark designation for Spanish Camp:

To: Jennifer Raab,
Chair NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Dear Ms. Raab,

The Preservation League would like to offer its services and support to the establishment of a NYC Historic District for the Spanish Camp community in Annadale, Staten Island. Spanish Camp presents a truly remarkable opportunity for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize one of the city's cultural enclaves-and award it the benefits of landmark status. I understand that you and other staff members are planning a visit to the site. You will find a close knit community, living in small beach cottages. The quality of casual order in Spanish Camp reflects the principles and ideals the founding society, the Sociedad Natura Hispana. The society's members placed their bungalows around a commons and other communal facilities. The mowed commons and the buildings where they showered, did laundry and received mail are still on the site. There is meaning in the design of the compound as it reflects a way-of-life: simple, cooperative and close to nature.

In the last meeting of the PLSI Board we voted unanimously to support the Spanish Camp Residents Association in its effort to request historic district status for the full site. The lake, the open space, and the cottages are all a part of a community that should be preserved as an intact unit. The Dorothy Day cottage is the only extant building on Staten Island associated with one of the major religious figures of the twentieth century, but to recognize the Day cottage alone would make no sense in the proposed development of large houses-and to move it out of its context would be to compromise both its integrity and its meaning. Establishing Spanish Camp as a landmarked district would recognize an important part of the cultural history of our city, an history made by the renowned and the anonymous. The Preservation League of Staten Island urges immediate action by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Sincerely,
Channell Graham President,
PLSI
August 12, 1997
Spanish Camp Cottage

For more information send email to Preserve & Protect